Julius Erving Reveals Controversial Stance On Retiring Kobe Bryant's Number

It's been a little over two and a half years since Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash. While TMZ was first to report the death, stating that his daughter GiGi died in the crash too, the media outlet was later reprimanded by the police for the timing of releasing the news, per CNN. The entire Lakers team heard about the death while they were on a plane, coming home from a loss against the Philadelphia 76ers.

"There was that uncomfortable time, feeling like, 'This is a crazy report,'" Lakers coach Frank Vogel told ESPN about receiving the news on the flight home. "Like, 'This is not true. There's no way.' My expectation was to hear that it was a false report." The players reportedly started to wake up and scour the internet for answers. Many of them were in denial and eventually broke down crying.

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's wife, recently went through an 11-day trial after she claimed that the photos taken and released of the bodies, post-helicopter crash, caused "distress," per the Los Angeles Times. Vanessa won the case, and she reported that she plans to donate the $16 million she won to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation in honor of her late husband. The NBA is reportedly thinking of honoring the basketball legend by retiring his number, but another basketball legend isn't on board with the idea.

Julius Erving thinks the league shouldn't retire Kobe Bryant's numbers

In November 2015, Kobe Bryant retired from basketball. In 2017, the Lakers held a ceremony, announcing that they will be retiring the basketball legend's numbers — 8 and 24 — for "the rest of franchise history," per the NBA. The jerseys were hung on the rafters next to other Lakers legends such as Shaquille O'Neal and Magic Johnson. But after Bryant's death, retiring his numbers league-wide became a topic of discussion. Julius Erving aka Dr. J — a former basketball player — doesn't think the league retiring Bryant's numbers is a great idea.

"It's more of a franchise situation with the Lakers," Erving, who helped create the NBA, told TMZ. "If they wanted to do it, which I think they already have, that makes sense — but for the whole league to do it, probably not." The former basketball player also spoke about the comparisons to Bill Russell, who also died in 2020 and had his number retired league-wide. "Bill was 86 years old, so address it like that to an 86-year-old ... there's no comparison," Erving said. "I wouldn't even try to compare Kobe Bryant to Russell."

Despite Erving's opinion, players already have been making efforts to "informally" retire Bryant's numbers, per Complex. Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie was the first to change his jersey number from 8 to 26 out of respect for the late NBA player. Maybe one day in the future, the league will decide to retire the numbers officially.